Citing what he called an unprecedented spike in new COVID-19 cases across the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday the state is hitting an “emergency brake” on economic activity, moving 28 counties — including Orange — back to the most restrictive tier of California’s matrix governing business operations.

The move means 41 of the state’s 58 counties are now in the restrictive “purple” tier, which severely restricts capacity at retail establishments, closes fitness centers and limits restaurants to limited outdoor-only service.

Orange County had been in the slightly less-restrictive “red” tier of the four-level matrix, but was anticipated to fall back to “purple” in light of rising daily case numbers. Other Southern California counties of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego were already in the “purple” tier.

Newsom also announced changes in the way counties will be classified in the matrix. Previously, counties could only move backward in the roadmap if they failed to meet key metrics — the rates of new cases and positive tests — for two consecutive weeks. Now a county will be moved backward after just one week of elevated numbers.

Counties can also potentially be moved back multiple tiers in the matrix if the numbers warrant, Newsom said. Under the new guidelines, counties that are moved backward in the tier system must require businesses to meet the accompanying restrictions immediately, as opposed to a previous three-day grace period.

The state previously updated counties’ placement in the matrix once a week — every Tuesday — but now counties can be moved at any time based on the numbers, the governor said.

Newsom said the move comes in response to a doubling of daily COVID-19 case rates over the past 10 days, the highest increase state has seen since June.

He said the state has 11 “surge facilities” that can be activated to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed in particularly hard-hit areas. He said the first such facility will be activated in Imperial County.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.